Taxpayers who file early in tax season may not receive their refunds in a timely manner because of the partial government shutdown that began on Dec. 22, 2018. If the shutdown continues, it could mean a delay in billions of dollars in income-tax refunds.

During the shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service has lost funding and is operating with about 12% of its employees. While the shutdown rolls on, the IRS can process fewer tax returns than normal, keep systems running, and conduct criminal investigations. However, it can’t run audits, answer off-season taxpayer questions, or allocate refunds.

“For many Americans, the tax refund is the single largest financial event of the year, and the people who tend to file early in the season are taxpayers who count on large refunds to pay down debt, catch up on bills or make major purchases,” said Richard Rubin of the Wall Street Journal. “Those are disproportionately low-income households that benefit from the earned-income tax credit and other provisions that give them no income-tax liability or a net benefit from the income-tax system.”

Normally, individuals cannot file their tax returns until their employer files and delivers their W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099 (for freelancers) by Jan. 31.

The IRS normally begins accepting tax returns at the end of January, and early filers can see refunds hit their account as early as February.

If consumers haven’t received tax forms by mid-February, they are advised to contact your employer and request a copy or ask that it be resent, according to the IRS. If that doesn’t work, the next step is to contact the IRS at 800-829-1040. Individuals are asked to provide the following information:

  • Name, address, Social Security number, and phone number
  • Employer’s name, address, and phone number
  • Dates worked for the employer
  • An estimate of  paid wages and federal income tax withheld during 2018

If the W-2 or Form 1099 does not arrive by April 15, individuals can use the W-2 substitute, Form 4852, and estimate the wages and withheld taxes. Note that the IRS could delay the refund while verifying the information. Persons can also file for a six-month extension using the IRS Free File.

If an individual receives their W-2 or Form 1099 after filing and the information is different than what was claimed, that person can file an amended tax return using Form 1040X.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 6, 2011. The IRS would have to suspend tax audits, the Small Business Administration’s processing of loan applications would be halted and National Parks would close if the federal government is forced into a partial shutdown because of the budget impasse in Congress. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...

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